Ever since our primate ancestors roamed the savannahs of Africa, and later hunter / gatherers foraged for meat and vegetables, humans have eaten meat in great quantities, and in some places and cultures, much more than others.
For those of us ‘civilized’ peoples, somehow along the way, we lost touch with our food origins, for the most part. I have never had to go out with a gun and kill an animal or wring the neck of a chicken. The idea is appalling and mortifying to me, and grabs at my soul to think of being responsible for killing a living creature. Yet, how incongruous it is that I still eat meat, although perhaps not as regularly and as much as I did in my earlier years. Am I being hypocritical? Do as I say, not as I do? No, I don’t think so. I believe it is that as most of my peers in my generation, I have somehow subconsciously dissociated myself with the meat on my plate, which I purchase in a brightly lit supermarket refrigerated case, lined with row after row of nicely saran wrapped chunks of meat in little Styrofoam plates. Even though that little chunk of pale pink meat says ‘pork’ on it, it doesn’t look like a terrified little pig about to meet his fate. The big, round rolled roast says ‘beef’ on it, but I can’t see the soulful eyes of the steer before he was killed and butchered, so that I could have meat for dinner.
When I think about it, I tell myself that I really should become totally vegetarian, as I have an inordinate fondness and love for all non-human creatures (some even human ones, too!). I regularly support PETA, ASPCA, and about a dozen other animal humane associations and have for many years. So, then, why do I still eat meat? Because it doesn’t look like an animal any longer and I don’t have to watch the creature being dispatched and dismembered? That’s probably why, at least, that’s the limpest excuse I can think of.
As we learned more about ourselves as human primates, we also learned much more over the past few hundred years, about our closest non-human primate kin: apes and monkeys. We know that genetically, we share much in common with them, as well as in certain behaviors and habits. Which brings me to this: would you eat a monkey?
I purchased a cookbook, “Genuine Cuisine of Mauritius”, by Guy Felix, published in 1988 and last reprinted in 2002. There are a variety of meat recipes, including “The Monkey Curry or Curry No. 2”. First, find yourself a monkey. Now, according to Wikipedia and other sites, the Crab Eating Macaque is the primary monkey species in Mauritius, although there are likely others. The recipe does not specify the monkey species, only that you need a monkey. Mauritius is situated approximately 2000 kilometres to the south east coast of Africa and lies east of Madagascar.
After you capture your monkey (much better to use one that has been killed at hunting), you tie and hang him by his legs, skin him, disembowel him and wash thoroughly. With a sharp knife, remove all of the bones and slice the meat into cubes, which are then marinated in a mix of oil, wines, garlic, other spices and garlic. The author recommends using a pressure cooker, as the meat takes some time to cook. An important note: turn down the fire and let the meat simmer for 30 minutes if the victim was a young one, 45 minutes for an “old-fellow”.
In researching this recipe, I also discovered many articles, which indicate that Macaques have been cruelly and inhumanely captured and shipped around the world for medical experiments. There is a movement to stop the cruelty, but is still goes on. Many Macaques, after being captured, are simply killed either right away, or after arriving at their destination because they are unsuitable for research: they may weigh too much, or for some other reason, do not meet the criteria suitable for drug testing.
I can never imagine killing a monkey, let alone any other creature, but which is worse: killing a monkey after you have captured and treated him inhumanely, only to dispatch him if he wasn’t the right fit for your research? Or, is it better to kill him and eat him? Does this give the animal some dignity in his death? Some justification of sorts?
Pierre Edmond Pulvenis wrote the introduction to “Genuine Cuisine of Mauritius”, and in it, he notes:
“I have not the slightest doubt that the human hand, the best choice in that matter, when well-cooked constitutes a savoury for a cannibal, or that the large wood worms are a delicacy to the Ethiopian palate: it is all a question of latitudes and customs”.
I’m not sure.